Life in Eve: How I Learned to Love Hating "Safe Zones" in New Eden

I didn't intend to write any more stuff about CCP and the development direction of Eve; it's not really what I do.

However, I was having a good discussion on Reddit about yesterday's post (someone put it up there and I dropped in to say hello), and one of the threads of conversation gave me what I think is kind of a cool idea. It started like this. Someone asked:
But don't you worry that it [restriction on non-consensual PvP] could compromise the unique identity that EVE has built for itself?

I think it's clear from yesterday's post that the personal answer I came to in regards to that question is 'no'. I said:
I love the scams, the free for alls, the Asakai's, the alliances disbanded from within, the wormhole ambushes, bomber's bars, freighter ganks on the way to Jita, and the 70-minute logi-assisted lowsec complex brawls. I love it all. But looking at it from CCP's point of view, I believe they've got to be asking hard questions about whether or not they can introduce a few [safe] systems in New Eden... like... hell, I dunno, the 1.0 and 0.9 systems and training systems, or something. That might be all it takes to reduce the number of "tried it, hated it, everyone's fucking evil on that game" guys who leave four hours into the trial period. If I'm CCP, and I have any faith in the game at all, I have to believe that if I can keep that trial guy around even a little longer, I'll secure another player.

Except I didn't say [safe] systems -- I said "Mandatory Safeties Green" systems.

Because that's all it would take, isn't it? Certain systems where everyone's safeties get flipped green and locked there until you leave the system. Easy, easy code.

More importantly, it gave me what I think is kind of a cool idea for building a storyline around this. Stay with me.

1. We have pirate rookie ships on the test servers right now.

Pretty cool, no?

2. Based on the existence of pirate rookie ships, we can assume (for a moment) that CCP is seriously considering a way for players to switch their allegiance to a pirate faction.

Y'see,  there's no way to get rookie ships of a particular faction in the game unless someone in the game is a member of that faction. So it follows that if these rookie ships exist, there's going to be some way for players to join those factions, sort of faction warfare style.
3. If that happens, imagine a significant number of pilots will do that, and damn the consequences.

I really don't think this is a very difficult thing to imagine, knowing our playerbase.

4. Let's further assume that being in a pirate faction is more than just vapid window dressing.

If the certain mechanics in the game are slightly different for pirate faction players (such as the stuff Jester suggested a few months ago), you see a sudden and serious upswing in player-on-player violence. I'm thinking specifically of the idea of pirate faction players getting paid bounties by their pirate faction not for killing NPC rats, but for killing empire players -- kind of like how faction warfare rewards you with loyalty points when you kill war targets -- and paying out especially well against those players with high sec status.

High sec status: that's important. It means that a veteran carebear who should know how to protect his shit is a far more attractive target than a two-day-old newb in his first catalyst.

5. In response to this upswing in "terrorism" (which, ironically, CCP engineered), CONCORD implements highly intrusive, insulting levels of "security" in certain high-profile areas of New Eden.

CONCORD reveals the ability to remotely lock a pilot's ship system's safeties to Green, something they've perhaps always been able to do and haven't had a good excuse to try.

It's security theatre, and offers no demonstrable levels of increased safety for anyone, but they do it anyway.

As an American who flies frequently, I'm sure I have NO IDEA what that's like.

6. People hate this new restriction, but (at least for the most part), they hate CONCORD for it, not CCP.

This effect can be ensured if CCP drops hints that it's just a "storyline" restriction -- a yoke we will be able to throw off later, if resistance in-game is high enough. In addition to player resistance, you can have some empire factions that rage against it (Gallente, Minmatar), some that seethe quietly (Amarr), and those that openly embrace it as a natural fit (Caldari).

The Amarr: great seethers.

7. The story concludes in summer of 2014 with some kind of in-game event.

In this event, capsuleers band together to say "This is not how New Eden works!" and shuts this CONCORD restriction off.

Seems to me this would:

  1. Be a pretty neat story arc.

  2. Combined with the pirate faction stuff that offers 'bounties' for high sec status kills, simultaneously add 'safe zones' and make New Eden more violent.

  3. Sort of 'build the brand' of Eve - what a great story that would be for the news outlets, when all of New Eden rises up to state, as part of an in-game event: "Nowhere is safe, and we like it that way." What a neat way to get players to band together: sort of an in-character Summer of Rage, with beneficial effects (press) for the company and the game.

  4. Give CCP a year-long window in which to cushion new players a bit.

I dunno. Seems kind of cool to me. Thoughts?


Life in Eve: Life on the Playground

My kids go to a charter school. This may not mean much to anyone reading this, so I'll sum up what it means to me by saying that charter schools are basically public schools with limited enrollment, where the parents are encouraged if not in fact required to be more involved. There's an after school program my daughter's in that literally would not be running at all if her mom didn't volunteer every week to come in and help the teacher with it, which she does because she feels it's worth the time commitment.

And in any case, we have to volunteer: every kid's family must log at least 40 hours at the school every year.

I do most of my volunteer time as a playground monitor for recess. I like it: I get to see my kids, meet their friends, play the gruff but affable grownup. Whatever.

And I get to watch the kids play, which is always... enlightening. The first time I ever did a session as a monitor, I found out that when my daughter isn't doing kinematic dismounts off the jungle gym, she plays soccer. Impromptu, full-tilt, free-for-all soccer. On the concrete basketball court. And is - literally - the only girl out there, among a surging riptide of boys who clearly aren't planning to cut her any slack. She makes her own choices. Good thing to know what they are.

During one recess, I spotted a kid making a different choice. Something of a reverse of Kaylee, he was one of the few boys not playing soccer. Instead, he'd found a railing to perch on, mostly turned away from the rest of the playground, and was eyeballs deep in a story, the hardback book about as thick as The Stand, though probably a bit less apocalyptic.

Oh man, I thought, I've so been that kid. And I had. Not always, but if I was in the middle of a really good story and recess rolled around? Kickball could fucking wait, you know?

Then, while I watched, a couple other kids crept over and dumped a backpack full of woodchips over the kid's head, which kicked my level of empathy up a notch. I'd been there too, once or twice.

What did I, parental playground monitor, do? Nothing. To my mind, as much as it sucks, it's not so very different from the challenging academic curriculum at the school -- it's the same reason I don't make the soccer players stop when one of them comes over with basketball court road rash all up his (or her) arm. Choices. Consequences. Good stuff. In any case, the woodchip backpack dumpers didn't repeat the assault, and the book reader just brushed off the pages and kept reading. If he wasn't going to reward them with a reaction, I certainly wasn't going to. A minute or so later, two of his friends (good friends, I think, one boy and one girl) came over and cleaned the wood chips off his head and uniform -- he hadn't bothered, not while anyone was watching -- then sat down with him and kept an eye on his six while he read them parts he liked.

(Okay, maybe I wandered over and stood in more direct line-of-sight of the kid's perch. But that's it.)

Would I have got involved if the kids had come back with another backpack full? Probably. If the backpack had been full of rocks? Obviously. If the kid had come to me for help? Sure, if only to offer advice. Otherwise? No.

But let's change the situation a little bit.

What if, instead of recess, this was some kind of independent after-school program: A massive playground, offering virtually every kind of activity any kid could want to do, but at a cost.

Further, I'm not a volunteer in this scenario, but an employee, and there are a bunch of other, competing, similar-but-different programs like this out there.

Does that maybe change the way I approach that situation? Of course it does. It's not about letting the kids have a 'tough love' experience that will hopefully make them a more self-reliant person. It's not, in fact, about education of any kind -- it's about making money by providing entertainment. It's about retaining customers, which in turn is about making those customers -- all of those customers -- happy.

With me so far?

Okay, let's talk about Eve Online.

The Eve Playground is a product -- it exists to make money for those running it, and while as a product it might satisfy many other needs among its playerbase (most of them social), when you get down to brass tacks, the company that maintains it serves no other purpose higher than "Be a profitable business."

And let's be fair: Eve is a pretty good product. Eve players like to joke about "this terrible game" (and it's true that at the end of a decade, parts are showing their age), but as far as full-featured playgrounds go, it's got a lot to offer: pretty much everything to offer, really, when it comes to playgrounds, whether you want play in a prefab treehouse, build your own treehouse, conduct mock battles between tree house kingdoms, explore the vast woods out back, play dodgeball, crawl around on jungle gyms, play in the big playhouse with surprisingly accurate hardware and fully functioning Easy Bake Oven, or even sit off on the side, your back to almost everyone, and read.

"You can do any of that," the pamphlet assures the prospective parent, and it's technically true.

But there are problems.
2012 was about spending time dealing with the things which build up in a game that has been running for nearly 10 years.

That's CCP Unifex, Executive Producer at CCP. To figure out what Unifex is talking about, look at what the company did with the game in 2012. I think a fair summary would be "make the game more accessible for new players, and give those same new players something close to a fighting chance against the kids who've been on the playground a lot longer." Yes, some of the changes did other things as well, but ALL of them affected new players. All the ship classes immediately available to new players: buffed up across the board. Major "late game" mechanics like logistics, brought down to entry-level gameplay. Improved (if still not great) tutorials. Ever-so-slightly simplified systems. A UI more like the UI of modern software systems. A vastly improved Faction Warfare model (already one of the better new-player-accessible, NPC-'controlled' systems in the game).

It's easy to see why to make the game more new-player accessible, but a lot of the effort with ships and so forth isn't so much about immediate accessibility as it is leveling the playing field. Why is that a big deal?

Well, this playground is pretty fucking rough on newcomers when you get right down to it.

CCP has always adopted a very hands-off approach to their playground: technically, you have the right to sit off in the corner and read, but at the same time, that other group of kids "have the right" to play dodgeball, and on this particular playground, that "right" extends to the fact that some of those kids will include anyone they feel like in their dodgeball game, even if the kid in question is doing something else and doesn't have the least interest in dodgeball.

Yes, if they come over and smash the book reader (or the jungle gym crawlers, or the kids playing cops and robbers) in the face with the ball, they'll get a minor time out, but no one's going to call their parents, and they will never lose their access to either the ball or the playground. Doing so would deny them the activity they want to engage in on playground, right?

Except their activity, the way they've chosen to play it, makes it impossible for those other face-smashed kids to use the playground their way.

To which the free-for-all Dodgeballer says "Fuck those kids. They're fucking lame anyway."


Except those kids pay to use the playground, too.

In fact, there are a LOT MORE of those kids than Dodgeball kids, ESPECIALLY if you only count the dodgeball kids who forcibly include everyone on the playground in their game. That numeric discrepancy is a real problem if you're the guys running the playground, because (a) some of those non-dodgeball kids will leave --

("Fuck em" mutter the dodgeballers.)

-- and more importantly, a bunch of potential kids who have never tried out this playground never will, because people talk, and what they say isn't always good. "Come get a fat lip from a dodgeball while you're innocently playing house," isn't a marketable ad campaign.

Welcome to Eve. Here's a free wrench.

("Fuck em" mutter the dodgeballers.)

See, the kids on the playground are, collectively, pretty much shit at fixing this problem, because kids don't want to stop doing whatever it is that is most fun for them. Even the most approachable dodgeball players can only go so far as to offer sarcastic advice about how to change the way everyone else plays, or point out how the book-reader's habits made the face-smashing too much for a dodgeballer to resist.

"It's really their fault, you see," they explain. "If they were more like us, there wouldn't be a problem."

And they're wrong, of course. There still would be a problem. If you're the guys running a playground that says "Here is a place where you can play however you like, but you'll have to respect this playstyle more than any others", you will reach a point where everyone who's likely to find that playground fun is already there.

That's fine, if you're playing dodgeball: you have enough people to play your game.

That's not fine if you're running the business, because businesses need to grow.

And it could be Eve has already reached that point of saturation. Forget dodgeball: heaven help you if you're some kid who wants to build their own tree house (and really who hasn't wanted that at some point in their lives?): all the tree houses are controlled by four or five major tween gangs, and they will gleefully curb stomp anyone who tries to join in without an invitation and/or humiliating servitude. Dodgeballers are a Hello Kitty birthday party by comparison.

This is, if you ask the treehouse guys, not really a problem at all.

So what's CCP going to do?

Not what they 'should' do; I'm not arrogant or blinkered enough to pretend to know better than a company that's managed ten years of success -- I'll leave that to other bloggers.

No: what are they obviously going to (or must) do?

EVE is a universe where you can do all sorts of things, and we will continue [...] expanding on what’s available to do. We'll do this with releases that are themed around some aspect of the New Eden universe.

This means [...] we will find a theme that can connect features and changes that touch multiple play styles in EVE across a spectrum of activities like exploration, industry, resource gathering and conflict.

- CCP Seagull, Senior Producer, EVE Online Development

So: any expansions they work on, going forward, will (ideally) expand play options for everyone from the book reader to the dodgeballer to the treehouse warlord to the woodland explorer. Smart.

There are some people who [...] enable others to have fun in EVE. [...] We believe that helping these [...] archetypes achieve their own goals is the best way to have the sandbox of EVE thrive. [...] We want to make EVE more accessible [...] as a way to find new features to develop for play styles or time requirements where we have gaps today.

- CCP Seagull, Senior Producer, EVE Online Development

Eve is a playground, yes. Play how you like, yes.

But Eve is also a product, and CCP needs that product to reach more people. In order to do that, they need to level the playing field not just between new and old characters, but between play styles.

And that means that at some point, it's not the kid reading the book in the corner that's going to need to adjust the way they play, for the continued growth of the playground.

Maybe - just maybe - that means dodgeballers find out that it's a lot harder to involve unwilling participants in their game. Which, as a dodgeballer myself, I think is fine, because we hardly lack for willing players.

Maybe - just maybe - it will mean that it will become a lot harder to hold on to multiple treehouses, and a lot easier to hold on to just one. Again, I think that's good, because war games are more interesting with more people involved.

Do I think there's some place in Eve for a safe zone? I don't know, and guess what: I'm not being paid by CCP to come up with a definitive yes or no answer. I do think it's a question worth asking periodically: is non-consensual PvP really that big a part of what defines Eve and makes it a great game?

Food for thought: There were two big events in Eve last week, related to PvP -- events that verifiably brought in new players when they got out into the larger news: a single-misclick that turned into one of the most massive super-capital fights that low security space has ever seen, and 28,000 destroyed ships in a pre-planned free for all in null-security space.

You know what those two events had in common? They were consensual PvP. Yes, one started because of a misclick, but it was a misclick that -- even if it had been executed properly -- was meant to start a fight. In fact, any of the really big stories that have come out of Eve in the last 10 years -- the scams, the fights, the alliance-killing betrayals -- all consensual PvP of one kind or another, as defined by where it happened, or the people and groups involved.

High-sec mining barge ganks don't make the news; they don't bring in new players.

What to nail me down on something? I do think consensual PvP is better. More interesting. More compelling. More sustainably fun in the long run, for the largest number of people. I've done both kinds, and when it all comes down to it, I'd rather play dodgeball with the other kids who came to play dodgeball.

I didn't start out playing dodgeball, you know. I was playing cops and robbers in the 'safe' part of the playground, and played for long enough without getting face-smashed (much) that I got interested in everything else going on.

But I was lucky.

CCP really can't rely on "lucky" anymore. They're going to need a few more monitors stepping in if they want more kids paying the bills.


Life in Eve: I really should remember to buy insurance

I've been back for a couple weeks, but what with all the hijinx in the wormhole, and leaving our alliance, and rejoining faction warfare after leaving the alliance, and moving our assets around, and even doing a bit of recruiting, I really haven't had time to actually... you know... fly around and do fun things.

Last night looked promising, though: I got on later than normal, and while none of the usual suspects were around, our two newest recruits were online. Long-time wormhole residents, they'd been spending the day since joining the corp checking out all the bread and butter ships of faction warfare that usually never show up in the unknown depths of Anoikis.

I want to give them all the help they want, but it's hard to know when you're overwhelming someone.

"Have you guys got any ships near our staging system in the warzone?"

They answer in the affirmative, we hop on voice comms and set out for a little three-pilot roam. On a whim, I take us north into Siseide, planning to go from there up toward the Eugidi constellation, but I see an Amarr complex open and warp up to check it out.

Weird. No one seems to be in the complex, but there are a half-dozen wrecks around the entry gate, unlooted. Never one to look a gift gank in the mouth, I proceed to pick over the corpses of strangers, when a condor drops out of warp and engages me.

I'm not particularly worried about the Condor, since I know I can tank -- even if I can't catch it -- until my backup arrives: I did the same thing yesterday against a Coercer destroyer, which hits quite a bit harder.

"Jump into system and warp to Ty," I say. "This is sort of one of the home staging systems for I.LAW, but there aren't any around, so we should be okay for a quick fight."

There's a joke in corp that "warp to Ty" usually translates to "warp into a horrible situation and lose your ship", but I'm sure this time --

My guys jump into system warp to my location, and suddenly the local channel shows five or six new war targets in system... all of whom land on our position just as my guys arrive. It's not pretty, though one of us managed to get out.

Right. Reship and head back out. Still heading north again, but along a different route. A few jumps along, I spot an open complex and one war target in system. Here's hoping... and yes. Sure enough, I've got a punisher in the complex, jump in, engage, and call my guys in.

... and just as they land on the gate leading into the complex, six war targets (different group than before) who had jumped into system a few seconds after I engaged arrive on the gate as well and follow them in. I go down quickly, and try to get the new pilots out, but they're both already tackled.

Still, I can't fault their attitude.

"We're going to die," mutters one, "but this Punisher is going down first."

It's a bad trade, losing five frigates to (eventually) take out one, but it's their first kill in Faction Warfare, and still worth a bit of celebrating.

I really have to remember to insure my ships.

Once again, we reship, and this time head south into the wilds of the Bleak Lands region. My two fellow pilots are in afterburner fit combat frigates, and I'm concerned any targets we find will simply outdistance them, so I go for an Atron attack frigate that can shut down particularly fast ships.

But outside of an enemy condor and slicer who don't want to engage, I don't get a chance to test the ship out. We capture several Amarr complexes, earning enough in TLF rewards to cover our ship losses, and I spend the time explaining the mechanics and common tactics used both for defending and assaulting complexes, since our first two fights didn't actually involve the gates in any way. We dodge a small destroyer fleet and head back to station to stand down.

Not a great roam, but (for me) good to be back and flying, and (for them, hopefully) a brutal but fun introduction to the war zone.

Notable: The surprising thing I took out of both our fights is the current level of Amarr organization. The Amarr have always been willing and able to bring a fight, but what I'm seeing right now on their side is some serious coordination in terms of roaming fleets ready to jump in and come to the aid of lone plex runners. It's very unusual to see backup arrive so quickly, and it's not just one corporation or alliance managing this, but several, spread out over the war zone. I mean, I've been away for a few weeks, and I'm probably a little rusty when it comes to keeping my eyes on the fight, and d-scan, and local, and a dozen other things, but despite that I feel confident in saying our war targets have stepped up their game more than a little.

So: Lesson learned.


Life in Eve: The Perfect Storm

"Okay guys," I said over voice comms. "I'll be back in ten days. Don't lose Isbrabata while I'm gone."

I really should learn not to joke about things like that.

Not just any shit storm, either. The PERFECT shit storm.

Now, to be fair, when I got back from my residency, the Alliance had not lost Isbrabata... lots of people had done a lot of work to delay the inevitable, but that's what it was: inevitable. When I was finally able to log in for a few minutes, my Inbox was full of messages from Alliance command that basically read like this:
Guys, we've had a good run, but the fact is we're got too few people trying to hold too many systems, too far from the bulk of the rest of the militia forces to easily get help from other groups. The clock is ticking, so plan to move your stuff ASAP. Get on the forums, find the thread where we're voting on where to relocate, and vote.

(Note: This is not the same poll as the other one, where we're voting on whether or not to stay in Faction Warfare.)

I read that last line again.


See, before I'd left for the residency (in other words, a couple weeks past) a topic had been started in the Alliance command area of the forum that basically started off with "Okay, Faction Warfare is STAGNANT and DEAD, and we need to decide how we're going to HANDLE THAT."

And the response to that thread amounted to a lot of people saying:

  • We like faction war.

  • Dude: This last month was the most successful and most active month of PvP our alliance has ever had, ever, in the history of everything. Seriously, go check the numbers. You're high.

I had agreed with the people who deserved agreeing with and thought nothing more of it.

But apparently, not getting the response they wanted from leadership, the two people who really really really wanted to move to null-sec decided to put the subject up for an open vote in the Alliance.

I checked the thread and had to laugh, because the votes went something like 80% in favor of staying in faction warfare. (Pro tip: if you advertise yourself as a pro-Minmatar, pro-RP Alliance, and recruit people involved in Faction Warfare, you're going to get a lot of people who want to stay in Faction Warfare and fight for the Minmatar.)

Right. I'll just ignore that thread, then. It's not like I haven't got other things to worry about, like moving a hundred or so ships that evening. I logged in that night ready to get to work.

"We have a new tower in the wormhole," Si reported.

"Please be joking," I said.

"Nope," Si replied.

"Please say you decided to put up a second tower for some activities," I said.

"Nope," Si replied.

"We have a new tower up in our system," I repeated. "And it is not ours."

"Correct," Si replied. "And there are pilots from at least two other corporations --"

"Three," Shan murmured.

"-- three other corporations besides the ones who put up the tower, currently active in here."

"So that's the bad news," Si said.

"Well I should fucking well hope so," I muttered. "I'm on my way. How heavily set up is the tower?"

"That's the good news," Si replied. "They got interrupted by one of the other groups, I think. They lost a hauler full of fuel, and their tower - a small tower - doesn't have any shield hardeners or defenses up. At all."

"Really?" This was almost as unbelievable as the bad news.

"Yeah," Si said. "We can't quite figure out what they were thinking, either."

Opportunities for education are everywhere.

The crew assembled, some of us grabbing new stealth bombers that got bonuses for the kind of damage the un-hardened tower would be particularly vulnerable too. This took awhile, and in the meantime, Shan and Si continued watching the wormhole.

"Umm..." Shan said. "We've got Proteus in system."

"Lovely," I said. "What's he doing?"

"... shooting sleepers?"

"Ha," I deadpanned. "Seriously. What's he doing?"

"Seriously," Si chimed in. "He's shooting sleepers."

"Do these people not even CHECK intel on these wormholes?"

"Apparently not."

Dirk and Bre warped around the system, trying to get a good angle to grab the Proteus while the rest of us moved into position to dogpile on the strategic cruiser once one of them had grabbed it.

"Okay, I'm ready," Bre said. "Is everyone else ready?"

Affirmatives came, and someone muttered "This is going to tell us really quick if there's anyone else in system with us."

Very true: One proteus strategic cruiser might look like bait and too risky to hit, but once Bre's Tengu decloaked, the prize kitty would basically double.

"I'm going in," Bre called. "Get ready to warp."

The proteus didn't last long. At all.

So, with a half-billion ISK kill in our pocket, we reshipped and started the tower assault, fairly certain by this point that there were no other enemies around.

But that didn't mean things were going to be simple.


"Okay guys," I said. "I'll keep shooting at the tower, but I suppose I better go hear whatever this is about."

I switched comms.

"... so, since our corporation are mostly capitol ship and super-capitol ship pilots..." a voice was saying "... our guys are all really in favor of going to null-sec. We made an agreement to take over a couple systems out there, so we're moving."

"Umm... okay," another voice said.

"... and since our corp is actually the administrative corporation for the Alliance..." the first voice continued, "... the alliance is going to null-sec, too."

I heard someone say "So why did you even bother with that poll?" and I switched comm channels again.

I find myself unimpressed.

"Hey guys," I said. "How's that tower coming?"

"Getting there," Em said. "Slowly."

"Good, good... say," I said. "We like faction warfare, right?"

"Love it."



"Okay..." I said. "Then we're leaving Ushra Khan."

"... do we still need to move out of Isbra?"


"And take down this tower, first."


"Anything else?"

"Well," I said. "To leave Ushra'Khan, we're going to have to drop out of the war for twenty-four hours before we can join independently, so while we're in the middle of moving, both sides may potentially be shooting us."



Life in EvE: Year in Review

My actual anniversary with Eve doesn't come for a few more weeks, but I'm going to be away from home and very very busy for most of January, so I thought I'd do this little retrospective now rather than much (much) later.

January 2011 marked my return to EvE. I'd decided to give it another try after failing to find anything of interest back in 2007.

It's safe to say that I've found enough in the game to hold my interest on the second try.

For all intents and purposes, Eve has been the only MMO I've played this year. Kate and I did a bit of Star Wars when it came out, but that proved disappointing and frustrating. We have lifetime memberships with LotRO, but we can't seem to arrange our schedules to play together right now, so that means more solo stuff, and I don't normally play LotRO if I'm playing by myself. (Frankly, if my option for the evening doesn't involve Kate, I'm going to pick a game we aren't playing together.)

So what's my second year of really playing Eve been like? Pretty darned good.

Back in January, I was still actively living in a wormhole that was part of Talocan United. I was heading out into known space on the weekends for casual roams, and making pretty good money on the side by scouting out and selling unoccupied wormholes. Reading about some of the stuff going on then reminds me of the intra-alliance drama that was doing its damndest to keep me from enjoying the game. Whoopee. We also had to defend our wormhole from a pack of cloaky attackers from Surely You're Joking, though I didn't write about that until (most of) February.

(Also, I see a post back then detailing how much I hate Low Security space. In retrospect, that's funny.)

Outside the game, February and March was swallowed up quite a bit by Mass Effect 3, which I wrote about at some length.

March/April saw the return of cloaky ships from SYJ stalking the wormhole. At this point, I was pretty much done with getting targets painted on our backs because of trouble the alliance had borrowed, so we excused ourselves from the wormhole and the alliance and moved to a new wormhole. I wanted something more accessible from known space, with a good connection to higher-end wormhole space, and very friendly to passive income projects via Planetary Interaction. I threw quite a bit of ISK toward acquiring a system that met all my requirements, and managed to make that investment back well inside the first month in our new home.

We were not entirely willing to settle with something so simple, however, and spent a good month kind of puttering around high sec incursions and trying out membership in a class-6-based wormhole corp that seemed like a fun group of guys if you stood way back and squinted a lot. Didn't work out.

Ultimately, we all ended up in the wormhole I'd set up. Of course, as soon as we all got set up, we picked up a stalker for about two months in the form of a cloaked-up bomber/scanning-alt duo we could never quite track down or evict. Not as much fun as it sounds, but it did teach us some good lessons when it comes to covering our less-skilled alts while they run planetary interaction tasks.

June saw me still restless with life in the wormhole. I spent a lot of time doing exploration in nullsec, roaming with Agony Empire, and generally just looking for something I could really engage with as soon as I logged in. Probably the tension of knowing a cloaked up bomber was hanging around in our home system put a damper on life in the wormhole, especially since he knew our membership list well enough to know if we were setting up an ambush. Pretty much everyone was lying low, or sitting in space, cloaked up and scanning repeatedly. Life in a foxhole is exhausting.

This search for a new direction culminated in Ty leaving the wormhole corporation and forming a new corp with the express purpose of checking out Faction Warfare without making life impossible for everyone in the 'normal' corp. CB came along with me. That was just about seven months ago now.

My time with Faction War has bracketed all the really big changes CCP has implemented with that part of the game. I wasn't one of the folks who made stupid amounts of money off the (easily exploitable) first revision -- I made enough to pay for all the little ships I was blowing up, which I suppose was what they'd intended -- and I applauded the fixes that came in later and killed most of the truly parasitic levels of farming while promoting more fun PvP.

As a bonus, after a lot of research and a few missteps, I found some really fun people to fly with in Faction Warfare (though, weirdly, I've flown with them less since my corporation joined their alliance), which helped immensely.

About that: Right around the end of November, our little Faction Warfare corporation (now strengthened by several of the main pilots from the wormhole, plus some new guys we've recruited) joined Ushra'Khan, who can best be summed up as rp-light pro-Minmatar. Oldest alliance in the game, parenthetically.

A week later, I wrote on Google+:

I've killed as many ships in the 8 days since bringing my corp into Ushra'Khan as I did in the 192 days I was part of "Eve's biggest wormhole alliance." Is that a 24:1 fun ratio? Feels like it.

Another comparison. 163 kills since starting my FW corp (177 days membership), 41 kills with my WH corp (472 days membership). That a 3.9:1 kill ratio and a 1:2.6 time ratio. Works out to roughly a 10:1 "activity" (read: fun) ratio.

Conclusion: Faction Warfare was a good move for me.

To update those numbers a bit: even with spending most of November and half of December away from the game, Ty's averaged just a bit over one ship killed per day since joining Faction Warfare. I don't care much about the kill tally, except where it reflects the danger I've been in and (by extension) the fun I've had.

I like to have fun. And when I say "fun", what I really mean is danger. For in danger, I find excitement, adventure, and ultimately fun.

Maybe it's an odd way to quantify it, but I find myself agreeing with Rixx on this point (and several others) in his most recent post.

Where am I now?

Ty's been working on rounding out his sub-capital ship skills. I like having options, and I don't like having my options limited, so (especially in the last six months) I've really focused on being able to fly every class and faction of ship, fitted properly. This has meant a LOT of support skill training, and training to operate all the tech2 versions of all weapons systems that would fit on Battlecruiser-sized or smaller ships. At this point, I can fly virtually any sub-battleship hull, fit with tech2 modules from top to bottom, and I have battleship options regardless of the type of ships being fielded.

My current plans going forward are finishing the Battleship-sized weapons I don't already have trained properly, as well as tech2 Heavy and Sentry Drones. That should take me to midsummer, give or take, and then we'll just have to see.

Meanwhile, Bre's been in the wormhole, and I've been at loose ends with her training for awhile now, because I don't want to train her just the same as Ty and she's already maxed out at the sub-capital stuff he doesn't fly very much. So: she's now training for Capital ships. I'm excited about this, because it's not something I'm doing with Ty at this point, and really gives her a purpose. Soon, I'll have a bonafide carrier alt. That's just a weird thing to say.

Otherwise, I've been spreading the training love around a bit with my other characters. Berke's got his leadership and other support skills as high as I need them, so I trained up a solid wormhole defender to bodyguard all our planetary interaction pilots, and finally trained up a Market alt and (more importantly) figured out how to run them properly and turn an actual profit.

What I've Done

I thought I'd found my version of the end game with wormholes. Turns out that the end game changes as you change -- the game is so big and has so many different facets of play that it feels like I'm playing different-but-interconnected games, depending who I log in. Solo pvp. Small gang pvp. Fleet pvp. Solo and group PvE. Market trading. Manufacturing and other industry. Exploration.

Still no mining spreadsheets, though. There's a mercy.